Adam Silver

Silver Remains Optimistic About Resuming Season

NBA commissioner Adam Silver remains confident the league will restart the season at the end of July despite growing concerns from a faction of players, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN relays. Silver made his comments during ESPN’s special “Return To Sports” broadcast on Monday evening.

Silver is sensitive and sympathetic to the feeling of some players that the resumption of play could take the focus off social justice reforms. A player coalition led by Nets star Kyrie Irving and Lakers guard Avery Bradley is pursuing a further examination of the league’s plan to restart the season in Orlando.

That group has also raised concerns regarding an increase in positive coronavirus cases in Florida; the restrictive environment in the Orlando Disney bubble, insurance for players regarding potential illnesses; and the risk of injuries during an accelerated finish.

“Listen, it’s not an ideal situation,” Silver said. “We are trying to find a way to our own normalcy in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of essentially a recession or worse with 40 million unemployed, and now with enormous social unrest in the country. And so as we work through these issues, I can understand how some players may feel, that it’s not for them … it may be for family reasons, it may be for health reasons they have, or it may be because they feel — as some players have said very recently — that their time is best spent elsewhere.”

Silver believes the league could heighten awareness and get the social justice message across effectively while getting back in action. It would also be a major financial boost for all parties involved.

“In terms of social justice issues, it’ll be an opportunity for NBA players in the greater community to draw attention to the issues because the world’s attention will be on the NBA in Orlando if we’re able to pull this off. … I think part of it’s going to require a fair amount of listening, something we’ve been doing already,” he said. “But then engaging in very deliberate behavior, together with the players, in terms of how can we use our larger platform, the NBA together with the players, really to effect change.”

Concerns regarding the coronavirus itself and those at greatest risk are also being addressed. The league has sent teams a medical history questionnaire for players, coaches and their traveling party to fill out, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Medical professionals will use that information to determine if members can fully participate in the restart, be restricted from certain activities, or be excused due to pre-existing conditions.

Restart Notes: FA Moratorium, Safety Protocols, BBL

With the NBA targeting October 15 for its 2020 draft and October 18 for the start of free agency, the player-movement portion of this year’s offseason figures to be fast-paced and hectic. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the moratorium at the start is expected to reflect that compressed timeline.

“I’m told the moratorium will only last two days,” Charania said during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show (video link). “October 20, it’ll be lifted so guys can sign contracts. Usually the moratorium can be anywhere from six to seven days. Now, because of this truncated schedule, two days.”

As we explain in our glossary entry on the subject, the July moratorium – which runs from the start of free agency (June 30 or July 1) until July 6 – is a period in which agreements on free agent deals and trades can be reached, but most of those agreements can’t be officially completed. This year, it sounds like the first contracts agreed upon at the start of free agency can be signed just a couple days later.

Here’s more on the NBA’s restart:

  • In an excellent behind-the-scenes story, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne looks at how the NBA and NBPA formulated a plan for the resumption of the season, focusing on the relationships NBPA president Chris Paul has with commissioner Adam Silver and Disney executive chairman Bob Iger.
  • Appearing this morning on ESPN’s Get Up (video link), Brian Windhorst said the NBA will soon disseminate a series of healthy and safety protocols for its return that will be over 100 pages long. “The schedule part of this was easy,” Windhorst said. “The health and safety part of this is going to be harder than you can possibly imagine.”
  • German’s Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) is asking players to wear chips to monitor their movements as they resume play this weekend, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Jonathan Givony. The BBL doesn’t have a players’ union and it sounds as if players aren’t thrilled about the fact that they weren’t informed of the league’s plans, but commissioner Stefan Holz insists the chips are “optional” and are only for COVID-19 tracing purposes. The NBA will be paying close attention to the resumption of play in Germany, per ESPN’s duo, since the league may be able to incorporate some of the BBL’s ideas into its restart (though I’m not sure the NBPA would be enthusiastic about tracking chips).

Adam Silver Addresses NBA Return

NBA commissioner Adam Silver appeared on TNT’s Inside The NBA this evening to discuss the league’s officially confirmed 22-team return this summer. Silver touched on a potpourri of topics.

Though more radical season structuring options were discussed, Silver hailed Hornets owner and former five-time NBA MVP Michael Jordan as being an important voice in helping pass the current resumption plan. Silver mentioned that Jordan did not want the league’s return to feel “gimmicky” with excessive playoff format tweaks, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).

Hall of Fame player-turned-broadcaster Charles Barkley asked Silver about the NBA’s protocol for dealing with a player testing positive for COVID-19, as cited by Tania Ganguli of the LA Times (Twitter link). Silver mentioned that this had been discussed with health officials. The league would not need to pause play, but instead would isolate the player and use contact tracing and daily testing to contain the spread.

Silver delicately handled questions about how the league would deal with older coaches on team benches, mentioning that “certain coaches” might not be able to be present on the sidelines, per an exchange captured by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich are the three head coaches who, at 65 and older, would be at elevated risk of serious COVID-19 complications were they to contract the virus. Assistants like Jeff Bzdelik (Pelicans) and Lionel Hollins (Clippers) also fall within that age bracket.

Gentry voiced his displeasure with the notion of being separated from his team, per Ramon Shelburne of ESPN (Twitter link). “That doesn’t make sense,” Gentry said. “How can I coach that way?”

D’Antoni also questioned the idea of singling out older coaches with more protective measures, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). “I am sure they want to keep everyone safe,” D’Antoni said. “But to start singling people out with more risk, well, I would hope they wouldn’t want to get into that.”

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle tells Woj (Twitter links) that he talked to Silver and the commissioner “admitted that he jumped the gun” with his comments on older coaches.

“It’s entirely possible that an NBA coach in his 60s or 70s could be healthier than someone in their 30s or 40s,” Carlisle said. “The conversation should never be solely about a person’s age. Adam assured me that we would work through this together to help determine what is both safe and fair for all of our coaches.”

NBA Expected To Approve 22-Team Return-To-Play Format

11:25am: The NBA’s Board of Governors is expected to approve Silver’s plan on Thursday, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

10:00am: When he meets with the NBA’s Board of Governors on Thursday, commissioner Adam Silver intends to propose a return-to-play plan that will see 22 teams resume their seasons, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The NBA reportedly discussed proposals involving 16, 20, 22, or 30 teams last week, with that 22-team format gaining increased support. Although the ownership groups from teams like the Hawks and Bulls expressed a desire to participate, per Charania, the plan will exclude them and the rest of the NBA’s bottom-eight teams in order to limit – to some extent – the number of people the league will have to bring into its “bubble” in Orlando.

As Charania details, the 22-team format would bring back the 16 current playoff teams, along with six additional clubs who are within six games of a postseason spot (the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, Suns, and Wizards).

The plan would see those 22 clubs play eight regular season games apiece, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), before a play-in tournament is held for the eighth seed. The play-in format would be as follows, per Charania:

  • If the No. 9 seed is more than four games behind the No. 8 seed, the No. 8 seed would automatically earn the playoff spot.
  • If the No. 9 seed is within four games of the No. 8 seed, those two teams would enter a play-in tournament for the final playoff spot in the conference. Such a tournament would be double-elimination for the No. 8 seed and single-elimination for the No. 9 seed (ie. a best-of-three series, with the No. 8 seed given a 1-0 lead to start).

Currently, the Grizzlies hold a 3.5-game lead on Portland, New Orleans, and Sacramento in the West, with San Antonio four games back, and Phoenix six games back. In the East, the Magic have a 5.5-game lead on the Wizards, so Washington would need to make up some ground to force a play-in tournament.

Besides giving those six current lottery teams a chance to make the postseason, the format will allow all 22 clubs to surpass 70 regular season games, ensuring that many of them meet the requirements for regional TV contracts, which will help out the league financially.

According to Charania, July 31 remains the target date for the resumption of the 2019/20 season, with the draft lottery and combine – which had been postponed indefinitely – now expected to take place in August. Presumably, those events would take different forms than they normally do, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s not clear yet how the 2020 lottery odds may be affected by the play-in tournament format.

[RELATED: Proposed NBA Plan Would Complete Finals By October 12]

The NBA’s proposal for the resumption of the season is also expected to include many medical and safety protocols, Charania notes. Sources tell The Athletic that those protocols will likely include players showering at their hotels rather than in the arena, inactive players sitting in the stands instead of on the bench, and players not being permitted to bring guests into the “bubble” until the postseason begins.

Any proposal from the NBA will require approval from at least three-quarters of the league’s Board of Governors (ie. 23 of 30 team owners). However, even if the plan isn’t every club’s first choice, there’s an expectation that team owners will get behind Silver and vote in favor of his proposal.

The Board of Governors’ Thursday call is scheduled for 12:30pm eastern time, tweets Wojnarowski.

NBA Targeting July 31 For Return To Play

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the league office informed the Board of Governors on today’s conference call that July 31 is the tentative target date for a return to play, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

That target date doesn’t tell us exactly when the NBA would want its season to end, since we don’t know how many games will be played once the season resumes. However, a typical postseason requires about two months from start to finish, so it appears as if the league is comfortably playing through August and September.

According to Charania (via Twitter), the NBA discussed four potential return scenarios on today’s call with team owners. Those scenarios were as follows:

  1. Bringing back 16 teams and advancing directly to the postseason.
  2. Bringing back 20 teams and using a play-in pool that would involve a group stage.
    • Note: The Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, and Spurs would likely be involved in this scenario in addition to the playoff teams.
  3. Bringing back 22 teams and playing regular season games to determine seeding. A play-in tournament would then be used to determine the final playoff teams.
    • Note: The Suns and Wizards would be added to this scenario, as ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne tweets.
  4. Bringing back 30 teams, completing a 72-game regular season, then conducting a play-in tournament for the final playoff teams.

Within each of those scenarios, the NBA could tweak the details and go in a few different directions. For instance, even something a solution as simple as advancing to the postseason with the current top-eight seeds in each conference could involve reseeding those teams from one through 16, regardless of conference.

It seems like a safe bet, however, that the format the league eventually lands on won’t stray too far from one of those four options. Marc Berman of The New York Post tweets that returning with 24 teams is believed to still be on the table as well, so that may be a variation of the third option listed above.

According to Charania (via Twitter), that fourth and final option – with all 30 teams returning to play – looks like the least likely outcome. Charania reports that Hornets owner Michael Jordan advocated on today’s call for player safety and not asking players to return for meaningless games — that viewpoint has been voiced by at least one superstar player as well. So unless all 30 teams get a chance to make the playoffs, which seems like a long shot, the NBA is unlikely to bring them all back.

The NBA and NBPA are expected to further deliberate in the coming days, with Silver potentially bringing a proposal back to the Board of Governors for a vote next week.

Board Of Governors Meeting Unlikely To Yield Final Plan

The NBA’s Board of Governors remote meeting with commissioner Adam Silver on Friday is not expected to result in finalized plans for the resumption of this season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

This speaks to the difficulties of getting everyone around the league to agree on a format and guidelines to restart the season. A wide range of options have been considered, varying from having all teams return to action to just the 16 clubs currently holding playoff spots.

Talks on incorporating the three most serious plans remain ongoing with the teams and the National Basketball Players Association, Wojnarowski adds, without specifying that trio of options.

Players Association executive director Michele Roberts has been conducting team-by-team conference calls with players this week, spelling out the various formats, as well as the financial implication of those options.

Orlando has emerged as the likely place where games will be conducted.

Latest On Potential Resumption Of NBA Season

The NBA has a number of important conference calls scheduled for this week as it continues to discuss the possible resumption of the 2019/20 season.

According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the league’s advisory/finance committee will have a call on Wednesday to talk about potential plans. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski says a call with the league’s general managers will take place on Thursday. A Board of Governors call is scheduled for Friday, as previously reported.

According to Wojnarowski, the NBA may present a recommendation to its team owners on Friday, but that’s not guaranteed, since the league believes it still has some time to further deliberate. Sources tell ESPN that the possibility of games resuming in August – rather than July – remains a possibility for the NBA.

As the NBA continues to preach patience, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts has started to push for a resolution to the league’s deliberations. Roberts, who plans to speak with players from all 30 teams over the next week to determine how they feel about the NBA’s reopening plans, tells ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that players overwhelmingly want to play, but need details on what it will look like.

“It’s time. It’s time,” Roberts said. “It’s been two and a half months of, ‘What if?’ My players need some level of certainty. I think everybody does.”

Roberts added that she doesn’t think the players’ union would necessarily need to conduct a formal vote on an NBA proposal when it arrives, since the NBPA has stayed in constant communication with the league, which has a pretty good sense of how its players are feeling.

“If we thought we needed a vote, we would. If we’re ratifying a CBA, we need a vote,” Roberts told Shelburne. “But our preferred method is talking to people or just having them talk to us. Then if we get a sense of what the sentiment is then we can move forward. We talk to our players and figure it out.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s plans:

  • There’s no strong consensus among NBA teams and executives about what the league’s return to play should look like, according to Wojnarowski. For instance, the idea of all 30 teams participating has “lost momentum,” but “still has a significant lobby.” Teams like the Hawks, Cavaliers, and Pistons are interested in resuming play, per Woj, who notes that some young, rebuilding squads are wary of taking the summer off and having a nine-month layoff before the start of next season.
  • On the other hand, there’s some ambivalence among lottery-bound teams about returning, particularly if they have no path to the postseason, Woj writes. Damian Lillard has publicly expressed this sentiment, as we relayed this morning. Commissioner Adam Silver is also prioritizing player safety and is wary of the possibility of subpar basketball if all 30 teams are brought back — the combination of the long layoff and stars on lottery teams sitting out could create a “bad television spectacle,” notes Woj.
  • Some agents are also hinting to GMs that their free-agent-to-be clients may not want to jeopardize their stock by playing poorly in a brief return this summer if there’s no path to the playoffs for their teams, according to ESPN’s report.
  • One starting player on a lottery team offered the following assessment, according to Woj: “If we don’t show up, we lose more money. We are already in the hole. And what message does it send to the public, the teams, the players that we are OK with 10-to-14 teams not playing. We already have a competition problem in the league. … My thing is: Play 30 teams for as many games as possible for the money, or go straight to the playoffs.”
  • According to O’Connor, Silver is interested in trying something different with this year’s playoffs because he wants to boost interest and appeal to casual fans at a time when all eyes will be on the NBA’s return. O’Connor lays out, in detail, the possibility of turning the first round of the postseason into a World Cup-esque “group stage,” which is something the NBA has discussed — we’ll have much more on that concept in a story coming later this afternoon.

Silver Wants Best-Of-Seven Playoff Series If Season Resumes

One of the many topics discussed by the NBA in the 10 weeks since COVID-19 shut down the 2019/20 season is the possibility of adjusting the playoff format if the season resumes. Reducing the number of games per series or even shifting to more of a tournament-style postseason could significantly cut down on the amount of time players and teams would have to remain in a “bubble” location to complete the season.

However, appearing on ESPN’s Get Up this morning (video link), Adrian Wojnarowski stressed that commissioner NBA Adam Silver continues to prioritize a best-of-seven format for playoff series, assuming the season can resume.

“Adam Silver wants to have seven-game series in the playoffs,” Wojnarowski told Mike Greenberg. “He doesn’t want to have shortened series early on. He wants to try to legitimize the champion as much as he can.”

While it seems inevitable that some NBA fans and observers will attach an asterisk to whatever team wins the 2019/20 title, maintaining that best-of-seven format would at least ensure that this year’s winner doesn’t make it through the playoffs under entirely different circumstances than usual.

Of course, the end of the season – again, assuming it can be completed – will still be very atypical. As Wojnarowski noted on Get Up and during a Wednesday appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter (video link), the NBA still hopes to bring back all 30 teams – or as close to 30 as possible – this summer, and may need to provide some sort of incentive to convince those lottery-bound teams to return.

One of the biggest ongoing conversations around the league is how many clubs will be invited to the NBA’s “bubble,” how many will have an opportunity to make the playoffs, and what a potential play-in tournament for the final postseason spot or two could look like.

As Woj pointed out during both of his TV appearances, the league will have to walk a fine line as it attempts to make things fair for teams like the Mavericks and Grizzlies, who comfortably hold the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds, while potentially incentivizing a return for current lottery teams by putting those playoff spots up for grabs.

Players Leaning On Silver’s Judgment For Potential Restart

The trust between NBA players and Adam Silver has made him the driving force behind the possible resumption of this season and sorting out all pandemic-related issues, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN details.

Unlike the often contentious relationship between MLB players and baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, the spirit of cooperation in the NBA has put Silver in a position of reshaping the NBA during the pandemic. That’s why most players are willing to finish the season and owners are sold on testing while remaining cautious on bringing back fans, despite the financial implications.

The league is examining ways to have fans in arenas at 15% to 20% capacity, Wojnarowski continues. Most teams are studying how to get fans into premium seating arrangements and safely distance them when fans are officially allowed to return on a limited basis.

The large revenue issues have not been lost on players, thanks to their willingness to accept Silver’s blunt assessment of the current situation. The star players are on committees engaging with the league office and even thanked Silver for getting on a conference call with them last week, Wojnarowski adds. That’s a big reason why the players didn’t balk at having 25% of their paychecks withheld, beginning on Friday.

NBA Will Likely Need To Restructure CBA Amid Pandemic

During Adam Silver‘s call with NBA players on Friday, many near-term questions were presented, but there was a shortage of definitive answers as the league aims to resume its 2019/20 season. Silver stressed the need for testing and how it will expand as players return to practice facilities. Additionally, more information was provided in terms of travel, training camp and the 2020/21 season.

All of that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the financial impact the league will endure. With the season suspended in March, there have been no NBA games for two months and if they do resume, there is no guarantee fans will be allowed, potentially for all of 2020.

Per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), the NBA was projecting $8 billion in revenue for the current season and $8.4 billion in 2020/21. However, those projections were in place before the coronavirus outbreak. As Silver noted, having fans in the stands for all games equates to 40% of the NBA’s revenue.

If the league moves forward with fan-less arenas, which may be limited to one or two locations at least for the rest of 2019/20, the loss of revenue will essentially force the league to restructure the current collective bargaining agreement. The league has already cut back salaries of employees, including players, while teams evaluate paying non-laid off or furloughed employees on a month to month basis.